Study Guide

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Violence

By John Boyne


In general, violence in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is like the elephant in the room—we know it's there, but it's never talked about. We think this is because the book is seen through the eyes of Bruno, a young kid who can't quite comprehend what's going on around him. There are a few instances of public displays of violence and evidence of abuse by Nazis against Jews—specifically against Shmuel and Pavel—but if you know just a bit about the Holocaust, then you know that what isn't shown is way worse.

Questions About Violence

  1. What is the first instance of violence in the novel? How is it described? How does it set violence up in the book?
  2. What do you think Lieutenant Kotler does to Pavel after he spills the wine on his lap?
  3. Why do you think Bruno doesn't ask more questions about Shmuel's bruises?
  4. What is the point of not showing the violence enacted upon the prisoners in Auschwitz? Does it work for you as a reader? Why or why not?